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Daily Reads: Trump’s Setting the Middle East Ablaze; Flynn Texts Suggest Quid Pro Quo with Russians

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Trump's Setting the Middle East Ablaze

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He did it –> On Wednesday, Trump destabilized an already unstable Middle East by recognizing Jerusalem, holy ground for all three of the world’s Abrahamic religions, as Israel’s capital. The BBC rounds up world reaction, which, outside of Israel’s conservative government, has ranged from grave concern to condemnation.

Protests have broken out elsewhere in the Middle East as well, and Josh Rogin reports for The Washington Post that the State Department has set up a 24-hour emergency “task force to collect information and coordinate response to Trump’s speech.”

Slate’s Joshua Keating marvels at the “cynical pointlessness” of the move. The Times of Israel reports that liberal American Jews are largely united in their opposition to it.

En fuego –> Another wildfire — actually a “series of blazes” — is burning out of control in California. Around 100,000 acres in the Los Angeles area have burned, as the fires scorched “scores of buildings and forced tens of thousands of people to flee over three days,” according to CNN. LA officials say the fact that there are four separate fires has spread their resources and personnel thin.

It doesn’t work like that –> On Wednesday, Donald Trump Jr. cited attorney-client privilege to refuse answering questions from members of the House Intelligence Committee about what he discussed with his father after the infamous Trump Tower meeting about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians. Democrats on the committee informed him that he isn’t his father’s attorney, and the mere presence of a lawyer in the room for a conversation doesn’t make it privileged. Kyle Cheney reports for Politico.

A whistleblower says that Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, sent a text to a business partner during the inauguration assuring him that he would get sanctions against Russia lifted as soon as Trump took office so that a deal they were working on with Russian interests could go through. According to Newsweek’s Cristina Maza, “the revelation is the latest evidence suggesting the Trump campaign may have agreed to help Russia in exchange for Russia’s help getting Trump elected president.”

And Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) talked to former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince about his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in advance of his hearing. Natasha Bertrand reports for Business Insider that the meeting “raised eyebrows given Nunes’ recusal from the Russia investigation and Prince’s status as a witness in that probe.”

Slavery for your own good –> An Oklahoma judge who has been hailed as a reformer for diverting people from prison to drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs was running such a program himself. But his “rehab” forced defendants to work full-time at a Coca-Cola bottling plant for free. Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter report for Reveal that the defendants were “required to say they’re unemployed and turn over their food stamps to the program, which state regulators say is fraud. And on their days off, some worked for free mowing [the judge’s] lawn and doing yard work around his property.”

The Honduran Government Is Trying to Steal an Election” –> Miguel Salazar reports for The Nation that “it’s increasingly clear a majority of voters have had enough of US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández,” but Hernández is nevertheless declaring victory in the recent presidential election “amid allegations of electoral fraud.”

Riddled with glitches” –> That’s how a number of experts describe the hastily rewritten tax bill Senate Republicans rushed through the chamber last week, according to Politico’s Brian Faler.

And according to Avery Anapol at The Hill, Robert Murray, “the CEO of one of the nation’s largest coal companies[,] ripped the Senate tax-reform bill, saying late changes to the bill would ‘wipe out’ coal mining jobs.”

If the tax bill becomes law, it will bring to an end a long and protracted battle over drilling for oil and natural gas in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but Jackie Flynn Mogensen writes for Mother Jones that independent industry analysts say that official estimates of how much revenue would accrue to the government as a result are probably five times what it’s actually likely to see.

Somewhat related –> At Pacific Standard, Dwyer Gunn looks at three reasons the government is likely to shut down this weekend.

But what can I do? –> At The American Prospect, Todd Gitlin argues that the best way to “fight racism and plutocracy” over the next year is to get involved in efforts to register and turn out voters, and support strong candidates against an onslaught of money from conservative billionaires.

Karma –> Remember Kim Davis, the Kentucky County clerk who became a conservative hero for refusing to obey the law requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? David Ermold does. Ermold was one of those who was refused a marriage license by Davis, and now he’s running to take over her job. Linda Blackfort has more details at the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.



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